The inauguration ceremony itself is under an imminent domestic terrorism threat, according to law enforcement officials. With nearly 20,000 troops, police and spooks flooding the city to counter expected infiltration by Trump’s MAGA extremists, it resembles a military garrison. A rehearsal slated for Sunday was postponed and authorities have locked down the Capitol and surrounding areas. The National Guard has ben authorized to use “lethal force” to counter any terrorist attack even as the FBI and other agencies are mopping up extremists who stormed the US Capitol last week, shocking the world.
The scaled down inauguration ceremony, to be entertained by Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez among others, will be attended by former Presidents Obama, Bush, and Clinton, with only Jimmy Carter absent due to Covid-19 concerns. Also missing from the line-up will be Trump, who in a boorish display of petulance, will take his last flight on Air Force One to his resort home Mar-a-Lago in Florida just before the Biden swearing in, still insisting the election he lost was stolen from him.
A cloud hangs over both his legacy and his future. The one-term 45th President will face an impeachment trail in the US Senate almost immediately after the inauguration, with the likelihood that vice-president Kamala Harris will preside over it in her capacity as President of the Senate. Although the US Constitution mandates the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court will chair the trial of the President, Harris comes into the picture because Trump will be an ex-president when he goes on trial.
Several accounts say Trump is in a dark, foul mood as he packs up, a familiar portrait for a tetchy, volatile person whose stint in office was marked by flashes of anger and derision at critics and opponents. According to one report, the departing President, in an expletive-laden rant, forbade his aides from even mentioning Richard Nixon, the last President to leave the White House in disgrace. He has not phoned or met his successor as in the precedent, and it is not certain he will even write the traditional welcome letter that departing President leaves on the Resolute Desk of the White House for the incoming President.
Republicans who enabled the tawdry President to run amuck for four years, climaxing in lies that the election he lost decisively was stolen from him, are hurriedly distancing themselves from him. In one of the more spectacular turnarounds, James Langford, a Senator from Oklahoma, who was part of cabal of lawmakers who challenged the election results, apologized to Black Oklahomans saying he did not realize his actions would be seen as “casting doubt on the validity of votes” in predominantly Black cities like Atlanta, Philadelphia and Detroit.
Meanwhile, Trump’s MAGA extremists are on the run as the FBI and law enforcement authorities are finding their spine after white supremacists got a leg up in the Trump era and were emboldened to attack Washington. Almost every person who stormed the US Capitol and indulged in violence and looting, has been hunted down, and for the rest, including those who are planning further attacks, FBI Director Christopher Wray had a dire warning: “We know who you are if you’re out there, and FBI agents are coming to find you.”
Wray said at a briefing that officials are monitoring “an extensive amount of concerning online chatter” and “calls for potential armed protests and activity leading up to the inauguration,” but it is a challenge “to distinguish what’s aspirational versus what’s intentional.”
Social media companies have belatedly come down on extremist propaganda — which the Trump constituency claims is “free speech” — and culled thousands of accounts, including that of the President. There is concern in some quarters that this will simply drive the extremist movement underground.